March 8, 2010

Connecticut's Giant Sequoia

When my son came home from Colorado a few years ago, he brought his girlfriend for her first visit to Connecticut.  She grew up in a small Colorado mountain town in the Rockies.  My son wanted her to see how beautiful and impressive his own home state was.  His approach was to wow her with our natural scenery.

A few days after they arrived, he suggested a drive to the next town to see the giant Sequoia growing by the river, Connecticut's largest tree.  Her eyes widened.  "I didn't know redwoods grew here!"  He said "They do!  There's a sign about it."  In half an hour they were back, and she was giggling.

Her: "I saw it, the giant tree.  And the sign certifying it was the biggest."
Him: "Well it is.  It's an impressive old gnarly monster of a tree"
Her: "Yes.  But it's not a sequoia.  It's a sycamore."
Him: "That's what I said."
 Connecticut's largest tree - picture from Wikipedia

It really is a huge tree, but it sits below the road next to a bridge over the river, so driving by it's hard to get an appreciation of the mass of this tree, since you're partially looking down at it.
My own picture from the other side, at the edge of the road

It's called the Pinchot Sycamore.  Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) are native here, growing in low damp areas.  Their peeling mottled white bark is eerie.  It's definitely not a Sequoia.
 Wikipedia photo

The Pinchot Sycamore in Simsbury, CT is named for a leading environmentalist.   
Gifford Pinchot (1865 - 1964) was a native of Simsbury.  He was the first chief of the US Forest Service under Teddy Roosevelt.

My son gave up his attempt to impress his girlfriend with the botanical wonders of his state.  Instead, he took her touring to see the Colonial history that abounds here.  Our town was settled in 1735, and there are old houses and homesteads scattered throughout neighborhoods, many with plaques showing the dates they were built.  Nothing in her mountain town was anywhere near as old; although there were mines earlier, her town wasn't built until the 1890s.

(Neither the Wampanoags in Connecticut nor the Utes in Colorado left bronze markers of their habitation, so I'm obviously ignoring the ancient history of the original settlers.)

I think she was more impressed with the old houses than she had been with our ersatz Sequoia, even though the Pinchot tree is estimated to be just as old as our town's settlement.  It was a sapling, just a small Sycamore twig sprouting in 1740 in the woods along the river, when Francis and Lucretia built a new house about two miles away and began raising their own forest of children.


  1. Haha, your son's gf's experience with the Eastern US sounds like mine lol. I'm from Alberta, which is straight up through the Rockies from where she is ;) I'm so in love with all of the history from the 16 and 1700's in North Carolina, because nothing's older than the mid 1800's in Alberta LOL. Unless you were a gold rusher passing through... :)

  2. Kyna: it's wonderful to see other parts of countries... that's why we travel -- glad you're enjoying our East coast history!

  3. That is so funny. The sycamore is ginormous. How wonderful to live in a town with so much history. My husband would love to live in a place like that.

  4. I meant to say documented history. :)

  5. Sweet bay, imagaine living in Europe where the (documented) history goes back for many many more centuries!

  6. Fun story - Your area has such history!

  7. Gloria, thanks for visiting and taking a little history tour!


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